Getting Ready for South Korea

  • Posted: 4/17/12
  • Category: Travel

On Sunday I plan to explore the Bongeunsa Buddhist temple that is within walking distance of my hotel in Seoul. I’ll be eating lightly that day while shifting my body clock forward sixteen (or back eight) hours. A bowl of BonJuk (Korean soup with lots of “stuff”) from one of the neighborhood restaurants is likely but will probably be my only full meal that day. I’ll fill in with snacks and such when my stomach feels up to something.

It usually takes me about 72 hours (three days) to fully adjust so, over the six days I’ll be there, I’ll have three where I feel “at home” with the day/night changes.

Over the years I’ve collected a list of things to do and find out before visiting a foreign country. It has kept me out of trouble on more than one occasion so, for whatever value it may be worth to others, here it is:

International business Traveler’s Checklist

  • Passport good for trip dates +90 days
  • Photocopy of passport stored separate from passport
  • Visa for foreign country and lead time to acquire same
  • Photocopy of Visa stored separate from passport/Visa
  • Work location versus arrival airport, transportation between
  • Local escort to/from work location
  • Recommendations for local accommodations and ground transportation
  • Name of and approximate currency conversion rate (so I can mentally estimate costs)
  • Amount and currency required for departure tax, if any
  • Time difference from home
  • Power adapter (take US extension cord, but first verify US appliances all work 50/60 HZ and 110/220 V)
  • Are tap water and ice safe
  • General safety - Walking in public, public transportation, valuables in hotel safe
  • Get card or other identification from hotel to show to taxi drivers to get back “home”
  • Assess the use of credit cards versus needing to carry cash
  • Before leaving US, convert $100-200 to foreign currency, store half in hotel safe with passport/visa copies, etc.
  • Printed medical insurance card and medical evacuation provider and identification and contact#
  • Medications, qty sufficient for planned stay plus several days
    • Aspirin
    • Magnesium (for my RLS)
    • EmergenC (electrolyte replacement powder)
    • Peanut butter crackers (emergency snack)
    • Prescriptions (Atorvastatin)

Social Notes

  • At first, observe, observe, observe what others do. Then copy but continue to observe.
  • Don’t point at individuals
  • Don’t expose the souls of your shoes in public
  • Avoid large gestures
  • Keep voice subdued
  • Avoid personal touching unless they initiate
  • Avoid eye contact in public with strangers
  • Monitor “personal space” they establish and do the same
  • Use of red ink / white board marker may be good or bad, but is never neutral, so avoid if uncertain
  • Tipping, yes or no, and how much

Important Spoken Phrases to Learn

  • Hello
  • Goodbye
  • Please
  • Thank you
  • Yes
  • No
  • Toilet?
  • Numbers from 1 to 10

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